AZUSA, Calif. -- Kris Cichocki’s 7-strikeout performance against an Azusa Pacific offense that entered the game batting .357 helped lift Dixie State to a 5-2 victory over the Cougars Monday night.
The Cougars managed 9 hits off the 6-foot-1 righthander, including junior right fielder Drew Evans’ solo shot down the right-field line to lead off the ninth inning, but were only able to manufacture just a single run on the other 8 hits through the first 8 innings. Azusa Pacific left the potential go-ahead run in scoring position in each of the first 3 innings, and Dixie State broke the scoreless tie with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
Junior center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ 2-out infield single in the bottom of the fifth inning scored junior third baseman Shaun Lane from third base to cut the deficit in half, 2-1. It also moved senior shortstop Matt Venegas to third base, just 90 feet from tying the game, but Cichocki got out of the inning with the lead after inducing an inning-ending groundout.
The Rebels added 3 2-out runs in the top of the eighth inning, with the last pair coming on catcher Blake Mickelson’s 2-run home run to right field that pushed Dixie State’s lead to 5-1. Evans’ leadoff shot in the bottom of the ninth inning knocked Cichocki out of the game, and Nick Orgill retired the next 3 Cougars on groundouts to pick up the save, his third of the season.
Evans and senior second baseman Grant Beyer led Azusa Pacific’s offense with 2 hits apiece, and junior righthander Scott Thur tossed 2.1 innings of scoreless relief after entering the game in a tricky situation with 1 out in the top of the fifth. With the bases loaded, Thur struck out the first batter he faced and induced an inning-ending popup in foul territory down the left-field line.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific drops to 19-3 overall, while Dixie State improves to 11-9. The teams square off again Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m., and the Cougars resume GSAC play on Wednesday, March 12, with a 2:30 p.m. contest at California Baptist.